Monthly Archives: January 2015

FREEDOM OF SPEECH- REVISITED (PART 2)

FOS2

The problem with trends in human society is that once a momentum is achieved, it cannot be easily stopped. It is when the situation has deteriorated almost irreparably that the realization comes that the trend has to be stopped.

Asian countries, particularly in Malaysia are fortunate they are not fully involved in this trend. Having seen the collapse and threat imposed through uninhibited freedom of speech, they should be able to observe and to balance freedom with responsibility for the true well-being of the Malaysian society.

The media are an institution in a democratic society. It informs people so that the people may be able to make informed judgements.

The government’s attitude to the press is predicated by the same concern for the public good. The press is free but that freedom may not be abused.

The press and the people should have the right to criticize the government so long that the criticism is valid and not be libelous or subversive or tending to instigate racial, religious or any other cause of violence.

It may be old-fashioned for the government to oversee the behavior of the press. But race and religion is a very sensitive issue. The open and provocation discussion of racial problems led to race riots in which 200 people were killed in 1969.

The instigators may have exercised their right, but why should they have this freedom to sacrifice other people live?

A responsible government must control the right of freedom of speech. But how is this to be done, especially in the world where one person’s opinion can reach millions of people in a tweet?

Previously we had the controversial detention-without-trial, the ISA to curb the extremists and the instigators. But apparently, some people advised the government to abolish it. And the government, in order to be popular, followed the advice.

We may have the Sedition Act. But this law is not a preventive measure, meaning that due legal process takes place only after the event.

The people who actually control the press may be the owner, or the chief editor and sub-editors, or the reporters or even the big advertisers. It is strange people often overlook the fact that these people have their own political views and agenda. Obviously, some of them want to shape the opinion of the public so as to be consistent with their views and beliefs.

Thus, it is only right if these people should be subjected to public scrutiny. After all, just like politicians, they have the access to the public and they can influence the people’s thinking.

The Printing Presses and Publication Act that require a license renewed every year should be expanded to online news portal. What makes them different than the mainstream printed presses? In fact, they are more mainstream in terms of readership and influence.

This is not an attempt to silence the critics, but when it comes to sensitive issues like race and religion, no one should be given a free hand.

The effect of new media today enables almost everyone who is responsible to no one but themselves the opportunity to say anything under the sun.

Ideally, self-control would be sufficient. But the ideal is not the world we live in. If the millions of people are to regulate themselves and be responsible for what they wrote, the relevant laws should be preserved, if not strengthened.

The phrase ‘I disagree with you, but will defend your right to say it’ must be replaced by ‘I will defend the right of the society if you choose to say something that is harmful to it.’

MatRodi

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Freedom Of Speech- Revisited (Part 1)

FOS

In the western countries where the right of the individual negate the rights of the society, the free speech concept is exemplified by the saying ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.’ Of course this sounds very noble.

Usually, at the time this statement was made, the difference was about minor differences. It means that no real harm was done simply because one differed from the other. After all, we can’t agree on everything.

However, it must be remembered that there are individuals who are subverting the society. By hiding behind the free speech, immunity, they provoke the society through inflammatory speeches, cartoons or even tweets.

Obviously, for these people, freedom is not the objective. What they really wanted is, to destabilize the society.

It is true the majority of people would reject their views. But, human nature being such, they can, and do, gain influence among the gullible.

It is also true that not all the people in the western societies subscribe to the freedom of insulting speech. Most of them are actually a nice person.

But by being permissive and tolerating aberrant practices, they actually encourage these practices to widespread. These aberrations then become the norms and a part of the moral standard of the society.

Bad is now good and good has become quaint, square. And nobody wants to be labeled as a square because this will make them primitive, let alone popular.

To be normal requires acceptance and practice of the very thing that were once regarded as morally wrong. Thus explained why everything done in the name of freedom has now become sacrosanct. The freedom of speech that once started as a noble act of accepting different views has been extended to unlimited freedom of the press even to tell lies.

In the efforts to increase circulation, the press has begun to appeal to the basest of human instincts. And so now sex, violence, racial and religious prejudices are promoted. If there is not enough material of this nature, they can always be invented. And so lies and innuendos have become the common fare for those who control the contents of the media.

Hence, the prophet Muhammad has been depicted as a terrorist. A pot shot at pedophilia by illustrating Jesus with used condoms in church was circulated. And they tell us to embrace freedom of speech, even if it includes insulting to religious prophet.

The killing of Charlie Hesbo staffs is a heinous crime that has been denounced by any religions and societies. Twelve people died would not have died but for the provocation and insults. Unfortunately, this may not stop the western press from continuing telling lies or insulting others.

For them, these losses are just collateral damage that has to be paid in the name of freedom of speech. Attempts to reevaluate the freedom of speech are seen as an act of weakness.

In the age of feudalism, the power of the kings was strengthened by invoking the divine blessing. The king was above criticism. Even when they oppressed the people, it was impossible to correct improper behavior by the kings.

Attempts to curb the abuse of power, forcing the British king to sign the Magna Carta 800 years ago, but is still failing to debunk the idea of kingly rights. It was until the French Revolution that this divine right was finally discarded.

No one should question the freedom of speech, even when it proves to be somewhat harmful to society. It should be vigorously upheld, just as no one questions the divine rights of kings in the heyday of feudalism. (To be continued)

MatRodi

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